Brexit - fishing

Ten EU states back France in fishing row with Britain

French Minister of the Sea, Annick Girardin, rallied ten EU states to support France in its standoff with Britain over post-Brexit fishing licenses.
French Minister of the Sea, Annick Girardin, rallied ten EU states to support France in its standoff with Britain over post-Brexit fishing licenses. © Ludovic Marin/AFP

Eleven European Union members, including France, have signed a common declaration against Britain over the way it has handled post-Brexit fishing licenses.

Advertising

Germany, Spain and Italy, along with Belgium, Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden joined France in condemning the British response to French fishing license requests.

"We call on the United Kingdom to provide a response as soon as possible and to engage in further technical work in accordance with the spirit and the letter of the Agreement," the final version of the statement said.

The UK has refused to grant all the fishing licenses sought by French fishermen, who are concerned about their livelihoods if they are not able to access the English Channel's scallop-rich waters.

As part of the deal made during the Brexit negotiations, European fishermen would continue to be allowed to fish in some British waters, if they could prove they had fished in the waters prior to Brexit.

French fisherman say Britain is asking for too much documentation, making it impossible for many – especially small – operations to obtain licenses.

Unified front

Monday’s statement came after a meeting of EU agriculture and fisheries ministers in Luxembourg.

An earlier version of the statement, initially drafted by France, used harsher language, criticisng the “unsatisfactory” and “contradictory” response by the UK.

"This common declaration is an important step, as only a collective response will allow the European Union to serenely continue negotiations with our British partner,” said Annick Girardin, France's Minister of the Seas, which oversees fisheries, in a statement after the joint declaration.

France wants to show it has the support of other EU fishing nations, and Girardin said the French and European response would be made public in the second half of October, and could include retaliatory measures.

France’s Europe Minister, Clement Beaune, said the “confidence” between Europe and Britain, post-Brexit, was at stake with the fishing licenses.

"We defend, together... the interest of our fishermen and anticipate all the necessary measures to protect and allow the legitimate pursuit of their activities," he said in a statement.

Threats to Jersey electricity

Last week he made reference to France’s control over electricity to the British Channel Islands, like Jersey.

On Friday he said France could reduce electricity supplies as part of "targeted" retaliation measures for the fishing dispute.

"Reducing supplies is possible, but cutting the power to every Jersey resident this winter is something that will not happen, and something that I do not want," he said in a television interview.

He said an energy export deal made during the Brexit negotiations gives France control over energy flows.

"All of this gives us pressure points. We have the means to modulate the degree of our cooperation, to reduce it, if Britain does not implement the agreement," he said.

(with wires)

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning

Keep up to date with international news by downloading the RFI app